Be prepared to pay a ludicrous amount for rent unless you want to live in a tiny bedroom in a share house with a bathroom down the hallway. Be open minded, grow a thick skin quickly and learn to move fast. If you can keep your wits about you the first few months you will be ok, but be prepared to adapt.
Also, take a critical look at your CV (or resume). Make it stand out, and make it ‘American’. You are playing in their game now, so learn their rules. I work in a creative industry and the amount of plain old word document style resumes I see is kind of shocking. If you are looking to be hired as someone who has flair and individuality and who lives and breathes design, your resume needs to reflect that, I like the idea of creating an online presence and making it an extension of that.
Tell us about your career:
I am an Australian registered architect who specializes in high-end residential design. My focus for the last 12-18 months has been healthy home design, specifically ‘Wellness Architecture’. I noticed after moving here how much impact the indoor centric lifestyle was having on my health both mentally and physically and after researching the subject realised just how much our indoor environments impact our mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
Recently, I became one of the first ever certified WELL AP architects, meaning I advise developers and private clients on how to design and build healthier buildings. As a background, WELL Building Standard is focused on the quality of the indoor environment (both in the workplace and at home) and its impact on human health.
I started my own firm Pip+Pencil in 2016 and in my free time (lol) I also freelance design with a great online company called Homepolish, which is an amazing platform that connects designers and clients for all types of interesting projects! My projects range from small scale interior design and styling all the way through to full-scale gut renovations.
I am also currently studying building biology meaning I will be able to physically test the performance of indoor qualities like air, water, light and noise as well as the presence of mould and electronic / magnetic field radiation. I think we are moving into a time, especially in the design profession; where it is no longer acceptable to just design for aesthetics, we need to think long term both in terms of environmental sustainability of the physical building as well as the health impact of being in that space.
What are some differences working here to working in Australia?
In my profession, the major differences are the typology of projects. As I mentioned, in NYC most are interior renovations on existing buildings; whereas in Australia there is a lot more greenfield sites meaning new builds and more freedom in design.
I have also found a wide range of aesthetic differences, most notably in private homes. The American tastes tend to be more traditional, with preference towards separate kitchen and breakfast eating areas rather than the Aussie style of large open floor plans where kitchens and living spaces meld into large family gathering spaces.
American style has a lot more decorative detailing and traditional materials – think detailed kitchen cabinets with ornate brass knobs – whereas Australian tastes tend to be much more European and contemporary.
I think a lot has to do with climate, in Australia we like to live a much more indoor/outdoor lifestyle, blurring the transitions between the two and really allowing the natural environment into our homes, whereas in NYC there is a lot more indoor living with smaller windows and a focus inwards. I really miss designing large open plan spaces where the climate has a huge impact on design decisions, like orientation, cross flow ventilation and shading as this is my personal style of living, it just reminds me so much of the beach!
Any advice for other Aussie professionals working in NYC?
Don’t be afraid to move horizontally to get what you want. I think a lot of people – and I am talking specifically to Aussies on the E3 – get stuck in an organization where they are unhappy because of a fear of not being able to find another job in a competitive market (not true at all) or worried about visa issues. Don’t be afraid to stick your neck out and go for what you want. This city has so many opportunities and you won’t find them unless you are willing to take a risk.
Advice for Australians looking to find a sponsor for the E3 visa is to really know everything about this visa before going into an interview. You need to understand the differences between an E3 and an H1B and be confident in explaining that. Know the perks of the E3 and be able to explain them in a way that makes the employer realize it’s an advantage to hire you over someone else requiring a more extensive and onerous visa.